The Inevitable Cory Booker

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 10 2013 10:52 AM

The Inevitable Cory Booker

The career prospects of Cory Booker are the sort of thing everyone in New York and D.C. media feel they can opine on, without data. A random, anonymous Democrat suggests that Booker is overshooting by running for Senate, and this Democrat gets quoted without regard to the many personal grudges against Booker, and no data.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

The Farleigh-Dickinson poll is out. It contains data.

Senator Lautenberg is known by 83 percent of New Jersey voters, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is not far behind in name recognition, garnering notability among three-fourths of registered voters (75%).  However, Mayor Booker’s favorable rating eclipses that for Senator Lautenberg by a sizable margin (66 versus 45%, respectively).
Moreover, among self-identified Democrats and Democratic leaners, Booker comes out on top in a matchup for the Democratic nomination against Senator Lautenberg. Forty-two percent would prefer Booker over Lautenberg, compared with 20 percent who prefer Lautenberg over Booker.
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Sen. Mike Crapo just plead guilty to a DUI, and I think he could command more than 20 percent support against a challenger. Here are Lautenberg's problems: He's going to be 90 in 2014, and the only senator to be re-elected above that age was Strom Thurmond, who was a shell of his former self in the final term. Booker is a black candidate in a state where Democratic machine politics have never elevated black politicians -- and black voters are up to 23 percent of the Democratic electorate.

We're going through another one of those "concern troll" periods wherein conservatives shame liberals for not promoting enough non-white guys. It started with the appointment of Tim Scott to South Carolina's U.S. Senate seat -- see, liberals, how come you can't elevate any black guys to the Senate? But they can. It just takes an extraordinary effort to break out of the party machinery with an independent fundraising base.

UPDATE: Buzzfeed's got an interesting scoop, in the form of an old Booker column about how he wrestled with his anti-gay feelings. The "Booker might be gay" smear was one of the first used against him by Sharpe James's allies, 11 years ago now.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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